Friday, July 7, 2017
Would You Go? The Pit Craters of Kilauea Volcano
I thought of Eddie when I encountered Devils Throat on Chain of Craters Road in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Devils Throat is a stark example of a pit crater. There are a number of them along Chain of Craters Road (you didn't guess that one, did you?), Some of them are hundreds of feet deep. They are odd because there are no lava flows associated with their origin. They form when underground magma chambers on the rift zone of Kilauea drain, causing the land above to suddenly collapse inwards.
What he found inside was an immense inverted cone more than 200 feet across at the bottom. All the walls of the pit were overhanging. Given the fragmented nature of basaltic lava flows, such overhangs are extremely unstable. Boulders started falling essentially from the moment the pit formed. Over time, debris filled the bottom of the pit so that today it is 161 feet deep, and the opening has expanded to 164 feet. The National Park Service has never really publicized the existence of the pit over fears that people would get too close to the edge and have the rock collapse beneath them.